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As much as deer hunters treasure a buck’s antlers, regardless of size, points or symmetry, Ralph Barten, 62, treasures them even more. He wants your deer’s antlers, but not for himself.

Yet, he’ll never be able to see them.

Barten is a hunter, but he’s blind from a surgical mistake, so he doesn’t hunt as much as most do.

Even though Barten is blind, he has developed a want to help others who are even less fortunate. Children with illnesses, dying folks, people in wheelchairs, and the charities and groups who help these needy individuals are the connection with Barten’s desire for more deer antlers than anyone can imagine.

Barten, with help from his wife, Jo, makes zipper pulls with pieces of antlers. A key chain with a piece of antler can make it easier for a person to operate a jacket to stay warm on a cold day.

Even more, Barten says this is hope he’s giving as much as it is zipper pulls, cup and hat racks.

“I tell the kids and people I give the items to that they are a good luck piece. Please keep it, wear it, and you will have God and Mother Nature on your side,” Barten said.

He also makes bigger items, and smaller things, too, which are donated to raffles to raise money to help those who are ill. These, Barten asks, if they can, to pay the postage to ship his donations to clubs.

“I’ve sent things to every state in the nation,” he said. “Sometimes it costs $50 for postage, depending on how many items I donate.”

Barten has very little money of his own. Once in a while he sells some items to get funds to buy products he needs to make canes, hat racks, more key chains and mug racks.

This Ladysmith man, and his wife, make and give away thousands worth of items each year, so he’s constantly looking for donations of products he needs, including varnish, saw blades, drill bits, ribbon and diamond willow sticks, as well as antlers.

Jo does some of the major sawing and drilling, and then Ralph takes over, often using his thumb to measure two inches of antler bone or to sand out the groves of wood in a fungus-infected willow stick.

These sale items also can be purchased in Baraboo at Bill Brown’s store and at McFarlanes’ in Sauk City or ordered directly from Barten through information on his web page, Shedding Hope.

In the end it is all done to help others less fortunate. He is still happy and positive about life by the smiles and hugs he says he receives from the kids.

Now he’d like your deer’s antlers, if you don’t want them. Drop them at Bill Brown’s store in Baraboo (Papa Bear’s Northwoods Store) or at McFarlanes’ in Sauk City or get a pickup load from friends and haul them to Ladysmith.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at

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